According to some really old sources, a long time ago there was a massive flood throughout the known world. So much rain fell that everything was inundated, as far as a twig-carrying dove could fly. A gentleman – afforded a certain “insiders’ knowledge” of things to come, built a boat for himself, his family and as many species of animals as could or would be cajoled aboard. Once the waters receded, a dot of land became visible in the distance, and our global hero made for it with all hands on-deck. The boat landed, everyone got out, and life started to make its way back toward whatever passed for normal in those days.
The site where the boat allegedly emptied its contents is Mt Ararat, in present-day Turkey and a mere 13 kilometers from the nearest point of Armenia’s southwestern border. Armenia, (“Hayk” in their toungue) is – according to their history and traditions – the nation which descended from Aram, son of Shem, who in turn was son #2 out of 3 of Noah’s (of “Ark” fame).
If the stories are to be believed, then it follows that Armenia had gotten quite a head-start on many (or even all) of the other civilizations. Their current circumstances do no indicate that this sequential primacy has worked to their advantage to any large degree. Today, Armenia is poor, land-locked, and surrounded by a geopolitical reality which militates against their making any major economic breakthroughs anytime soon.
Following the Soviet implosion in the early 1990s, Armenia almost immediately went to war with its eastern neighbor, Azerbaijan. The two previously-amicable countries have become bitter enemies which periodically refresh the notion of renewed aggression toward one another.
Jon, an Armenian guy with a reliable SUV and I wound our way south through the neglected, decomposing villages and towns of northern Armenia. As I had during some of the trip through the lands of Armenia’s avowed enemies to the east, I once again settled in to stare out into the foggy gloom. “Nothing is as it first appears”, I repeated to myself, in order to keep from looking at my surroundings through any particular lens. I would postpone the formation of any opinions until I saw more of Armenia.